National Radio Astronomy Observatory
P.O. Box O
Socorro, NM 87801
July 15, 2002
Dave Finley, Public Information Officer
Six Socorro High School students are spending their summer working at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) on a unique project that gives them experience in language translation, World Wide Web design, and technical communication. Under the project, called "Un puente a los cielos," the students are translating many of NRAO's Web pages on astronomy into Spanish.
"These students are using their bilingual skills to help us make basic information about astronomy and radio telescopes available to the Spanish-speaking community," said Kristy Dyer, who works at NRAO as a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow and who developed the project and obtained funding for it from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The students are: Daniel Acosta, 16; Rossellys Amarante, 15; Sandra Cano, 16; Joel Gonzalez, 16; Angelica Hernandez, 16; and Cecilia Lopez, 16.
The translation project, a joint effort of NRAO and the NM Tech physics department, also includes Zammaya Moreno, a teacher from Ecuador, Robyn Harrison, NRAO's education officer, and NRAO computer specialist Allan Poindexter.
The students are translating NRAO Web pages aimed at the general public. These pages cover the basics of radio astronomy and frequently-asked questions about NRAO and the scientific research done with NRAO's telescopes.
"Writing about science for non-technical audiences has to be done carefully. Scientific concepts must be presented in terms that are understandable to non-scientists but also that remain scientifically accurate," Dyer said. "When translating this type of writing from one language to another, we need to preserve both the understandability and the accuracy," she added.
For that reason, Dyer recruited 14 Spanish-speaking astronomers from Argentina, Mexico and the U.S. to help verify the scientific accuracy of the Spanish translations. The astronomers will review the translations.
The project is giving the students a broad range of experience. "They are getting hands-on experience in language translation, in Web design and computer science, and learning some astronomy as well," said Dyer. "This is a challenging project, but these students are meeting the challenge well," she added.
The students are enthusiastic. "I've always been interested in stars and space, and I love working with computers," said Amarante.
"We are pleased that these local students are using their skills to enhance our public-education efforts," said NRAO's director of New Mexico operations James Ulvestad. "Our Web site is one of our best tools for informing the public about astronomy and the work done at our observatory. This translation project now allows us to reach an important new audience," Ulvestad added.
The students began the project in June and will complete the effort on July 26.
The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.